Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘forensic psychology’ Category

Listening To A Story

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 21, 2013

Most Wanted / Snap Judgment, "Walk in My Shoes"

This podcast speaks to the value of psychotherapy. “You showed me love,” Richard, the deceased criminal tells the chaplain who visited him one on one, every week. This is the love of listening, of hearing the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, and the fear. Richard was a man, it seems to me, who wanted to be known, and he made that happen, in the last chapter of his life. I know he was a hardened criminal, who was sentenced to life in prison, but at the same time, he was a young man who realized what he did not get, and so  he lived in fantasy, dreaming of a life he could have, as he invaded homes. As he suggests, the intrusion, gave him a substrate, in which to imagine another life; a life so different than what he had. A life, where he had stability, and consistency. He speaks to going into a home, sitting in a living room, and using his thoughts to bring himself away from his past of being cast about in the world, at an age, too young, for him to cope on his own. This is a sad and happy story. Richard found love, at the end of his short life, through a chaplain, who experienced love, in return. This brief relationship illustrates the power of connection; the power of one human to connect to another, and thereby bring, for a moment, a sense of meaning to both parties. I am moved.


After writing this, I saw this comment posted on the internet….by Lisa1122 “I was so touched by Chris’ account of Richard and his life story. It brought tears to my eyes and I thought – this is the reason that I do therapy! To validate those stories that are less than perfect, often times tragic. I believe they were both enriched by the time they shared together. Thanks for the great story.”

Posted in Feelings, forensic psychology, Listening | 2 Comments »

Crime Vs. Terror

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 18, 2013

Security Hero

Last night at the Hammer Museum….


More than a trillion dollars has been spent on homeland security since 9/11, yet two amateur terrorists—with homemade bombs that cost $100—were able to shut down Boston for a week. John Mueller, author of Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland SecurityJeffrey Simon, author of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat; and William Arkin, co-author of Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, evaluate whether the enormous cost of security is making us any safer.


These three gentleman spoke about how fear generated from terrorism has led to billions of dollars being spent on homeland security, under the direction of both democratic and republican governments. Fear gets dollars was how I understood the process, even though, statistically speaking we should be spending our money on more likely threats to our existence, such as motor vehicle accidents. All crime generates fear, so Jeffrey Simon posed the question about the difference between crime and terrorism. This question intrigued me because I think the difference is the extent to which fear is generated. A neighborhood murder creates fear in that area, but the Boston Marathon bombing creates fear in the world. The internet has made terrorism more potent, both in gathering together terrorists, and spreading the fear at rapid clip. Still, Mr. Simon reminded me that antisocial behaviors create a continuum of fear, and as such, terrorism is not so easily defined. The generation of fear gives power, and so fear, seems to be the psychological reward, for terrorist behavior. That said, if we could respond to these crimes without getting scared, then maybe we could diminish the motivation of the perpetrator. Spending a lot of money on a low-likelihood event seems to reward the criminal. This seems to be the world of forensic psychologists, trying to understand the thinking of the evil-doer. Once again, understanding can change how we allocate our resources. So, we have another argument for the value of digging into mental states.

Posted in forensic psychology, Hammer Museum, Terrorism, Trauma | 6 Comments »

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